Special Interests Back Bills to Double Housing Development Breaks

February 7, 2020

Business, construction, and real estate interests are backing bipartisan bills that would double the tax breaks in a program aimed at encouraging housing projects in poor neighborhoods.

The measures, Senate Bill 440 and Assembly Bill 532, affect the federal Opportunity Zones program. The 2018 program gives capital gains tax breaks to long-term investors in developments in 120 areas of the state where unemployment is high and incomes are low.

Backers say the bills, which received public hearings in the past week, will result in more investments in rural and urban Wisconsin communities. But opponents say the program has given away breaks for projects in wealthy neighborhoods or areas that don’t need breaks to encourage development.

Supporters include the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, Wisconsin Realtors Association, and Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin.

The bills are opposed by Kids Forward.

Construction, business, and real estate interests contributed about $7.1 million to current Democratic and Republican legislators between January 2011 and June 2019.

Republicans, who control the Assembly and Senate, have accepted nearly $6.3 million and Democrats have received about $822,900 from these interests.

The bills’ Republican authors, Rep. Nancy Vander Meer, of Tomah, and Sen. Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac, accepted about $82,200 and $57,400, respectively, from construction, business, and real estate interests through June 2019.